Thursday, November 30, 2006

MP says HE Good for Younger Children

Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield and head of the Education and Skills Select Committee (thanks Arch), in suggesting that children shouldn't have to go to school until they are seven, is bucking the trend to get ever younger children into school. All he needs to do now is to tell the world that education at home works for older children as well.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Home Educators Unanimous providing clarification for Jim Knight (Minister of State for Schools) on the matter of what the "Every Child Matters" agenda should rightfully mean for Home Educators.

Go there Fiona, Elaine, Techla, Glynis, Cat, Cynthia, Susanna, Paula and Annette!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Exposing Ultra Vires Practice, Part 1

Named and shamed in what will sadly probably be an on-going thread henceforth:

HARINGEY COUNCIL Children's Service.

How's this, on page 5, for ultra vires practice!

" Removal of the Child's Name from a School Roll

17. It is required that, if a child has been registered at a school, the child must remain on the school roll until the EWO for Home Education confirms with the school, the receipt of the Home Education Referral Form and copy of the written notification of intent from the parents.

18. However, in addition to the above minimum requirement, Haringey has adopted a procedure to enhance the protection of the child and recommends that the child remains on the roll of the school until the initial assessment visit has been made and is deemed satisfactory.

19. The off-roll procedure will then be backdated to the date that the parents/carers informed the school of their intention to home educate.

20. This enhanced procedure has been adopted to protect the pupil from losing their place at school in circumstances where parents/carers reverse their decision to home educate very quickly or where there are concerns regarding the safety of the child or the suitability of the education to be provided.

21. However, where parents explicitly request immediate removal from the school roll, the Local Authority will advise schools to do this in accordance with the parents'/carers' wishes and an immediate home visit by the Education Welfare Officer and SIO will be made."

Cough, splutter...ergh you wa? Look, Ms Shoesmith, director of Haringey Children's Services, de-registration is immediate upon receipt of the letter by the school, and in the case that there are no special needs or an SAO, the de-registration is unconditional in all cases, not simply when someone opts in for it.

There is no point trying to hedge the fact that you clearly want to have the right to decide who should and who shouldn't home educate. Why otherwise would there be such urgency surrounding the first EWO visit to a family who opts in for their statutory legal rights, if it is not to vet them? It is hard to imagine what other possible reason there could be for such haste. You can't honestly believe that children are at such enormous risk from their parents, since how could you otherwise bear to do as you do every day and send them home for the night, or heaven forbid for a whole weekend or summer holiday.

It appears, by your actions, that you are in effect taking upon yourselves the responsibility to decide the form of education for children. I am pretty sure that in this situation, you would find that there will plenty of interested families who will seek redress for any failures in schooling provision in Haringey.

And by way of a footnote, Alan Johnson, the Ed Sec and Dave Fletcher/Elaine Haste of the DfES will be told that their reassurances that this sort of thing would not happen are, in your case at least, meaningless.

UPDATE: Surprise, surprise...seems we cannot hold old names accountable for reassurances they gave previously. We should now write to explaining that these reassurances counted for nothing. Template letter to follow.

Unschooling in the New York Times

I don't have too many quibbles with this article about unschooling in the NY Times, though a correction to the concluding statement wouldn't go amiss:

"But it can be tough,” said Mr. Kowalke, a magazine writer who is married to a woman who was also unschooled....“It’s always harder to forge your own path without someone telling you what to do.”

Who says an unschooled child can't be helped to find their own path? Whilst we aren't in the business of forcing children to spend a lifetime doing something they don't want to do, we are also certainly also not in the business of abandoning them when they need help and advice.

HT: Joanne

Well done, ARCH

Well done ARCH. They've been nominated for a human rights award, and so they should be!

Will be handing out their leaflet critique of the Information Sharing Index at a meeting of HEors today.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dr. Phil on Unschooling

We are (mercifully) yet to see Dr. Phil with his thoughts on unschooling on this side of the pond but you can get an idea from his after-show ramblings here.

Some things Dr. Phil should know (yawn):

*Unschooled teens don't miss out on socialisation.
*Many of them do go on to college, where the environment is more personalised.
*Unschooling parents are not the hardest working parents anywhere
unless they choose to be. Parents who have done school and unschooling report that school is just as hard, if not more so.

Andrea has the full story.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sharp Increase in Home Education

So it isn't just my imagination then. And the other good thing about this story is that this increase in HE is happening in Scotland, which has slightly less favourable legislation, eg: you have to apply to schools for permission to de-register.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Argument Against the Children's Database

Arch have updated their website with an exemplary summary of objections to the Information Sharing Index and bullet points as to what to do. Contact them to get hold of leaflets to forward to your MP or print the full argument out from the pdf here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Information Sharing Index (aka: the Children's Database)

...comes in for a bashing in the leader in Telegraph today. The BBC runs with the story of the nine year old taken into care after social workers misunderstood medical information and The Times also carries the Database theme as a leader, (complete article not yet available on-line). For a full summary and exposition of the issues, see Dave Hill's excellent post here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Letter to Alan Johnson, (cc'd to Own MP)

With many thanks to Dani who provided the inspiration for this, here is my letter to my MP and the Education Secretary about the proposed DfES consultation on monitoring of home education. NB: it is a personalized and impassioned letter, but do feel free to alter and use as you see fit.

Dear Mr. Johnson,

We are one of thousands of families in England and Wales currently exercising our legal right to educate our children otherwise than at school. In common with other home educators we know, we are well aware of our obligation under Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act to provide an education that is full time, efficient and suitable to the age, aptitude and ability and any special educational needs of our children.

We are very concerned to hear, via various communications to members of the home education community, that there are some representatives of your department who regard our freedom to determine the form and content of our children's education as an "anomaly" and that as a result of this, your department intends to launch a full consultation on home education early in 2007.

In full, we understand that this further consultation on home education has been proposed as a result of the fact that in last year's partial consultation on draft home education guidance for Local Authorities, LAs reported difficulty in assessing the progress of home educated children and in hearing their views on their education. Further, members of your department have also expressed the idea that if LAs are to implement the Children Act 2004, which sets out the Government's aim to improve educational outcomes for all children regardless of where they are educated, they must have an easier right to intervene in the education of home educated children. Some members of your department clearly believe that this aim is hindered by the present legal framework within which "the state cannot currently prescribe what form of education parents should provide, whilst all maintained and independent school provision is prescribed in legislation and subject to inspection"

It is the case, of course, that s437 of the Education Act 1996 provides a remedy for LAs which have concerns that there may be no suitable educational provision, but Mark Houston (DfES) expressed the feeling that LAs find this "unwieldy, time consuming and expensive and in some cases will be nugatory where home educators are making good provision but are resistant to LA enquiries".

The intended DfES consultation has been described as being undertaken in order to explore what changes the government might implement to strengthen the monitoring arrangements for home education and it has been suggested that legislative changes may follow the consultation. (Elaine Haste).

We are however of the opinion that the law, as it stands, is appropriate and sufficiently effective. In my now not inconsiderable experience of meeting HE families, only a tiny proportion were failing to provide a suitable education to their children and these were already known to, scrutinized and monitored by their local authorities, with children being returned to school in two out of the three families and the situation improving in the third. The safety net seems to me to be working already. Indeed it is the case that whilst your department is considering increasing the degree to which LAs have a right to monitor home education, many home educators say that you already interfere either quite sufficiently already or way too much in the lives of otherwise well-functioning home educating families.

Ms Haste worries that HE children are not able to tell people how they view their education. I could tell Ms Haste that the HE children I have talked to recently all say they love it. Almost all parents whose children say they don't, send their kids back to school. I don't think there is much to worry about in this regard, not least when you consider that there is a far greater problem in that huge numbers of children simply loathe school, and are never heard or taken seriously at all. For example, we hear that at least 20,000 pupils daily don't go in to school because they are bullied. I think you department really does have much more appropriate things to do than worry about than canvassing the views of an almost universally happy bunch of (HE) children.

If Ms Haste is still concerned to hear the views of the HE children I have spoken to over the last few months and years, I can report that they would without exception far rather not have LEA inspectors round their way more than they already do, so if the principle of canvassing and respecting the views of children, as enshrined in the ECM remit, is to be taken seriously, then yet again the argument for increased LA monitoring is further undermined.

As an HE parent, I can see the children's point. Home education springs from a private space, it happens in the very stuff of private family life. We have a right to privacy from the state, as enshrined in ECHRs and we do not need any further state intrusion to remind us that our actions have consequences for society at large.

Home Educators value the duty to provide a suitable education to their children. This often means that they prefer to tailor the education to ensure that it is personalized. Given that they know their children best, we find it difficult to think that an LA inspector will be able to offer much help that cannot be accessed more easily and with less intrusive consequences elsewhere. In this information-rich world and with the availability of HE networks, we do not have to rely on LA inspectors to provide us with links and help.

Whilst we note the concerns of the LAs that the inspection process is unwieldy, we believe that this is not necessarily a bad thing, for to make it otherwise is to risk the introduction of situation that best be described as a police state. And as far as money is concerned, more monitoring would surely mean more expense.

We have noted your recent comments about the need for the government not to dictate to parents in the matter of how they raise their children and we also noted with interest Lord Adonis's comments in the Lord's debate on the Education and Inspections bill, October 30th, in which he made it plain that the primacy of parental responsibility for education must remain enshrined in law, with the implication if this were not the case, then the state could suffer serious consequences. (see recent stories about the huge prevalence of bullying in schools, and the educational failure of schooled children:

We (by which I mean my family) therefore ask that you consider keeping the situation as it is, for we think that to require further monitoring and control of home educators is to risk the principle of the primacy of parental responsibility for education, to destroy the notion of privacy in family life and to disrupt the provision of personalized education to our children; and all of this at great expense and for almost indiscernible gain.

Yours sincerely,



There is an e-petition about Home Education here.

"As home educators we believe our children thrive without the constraints of rigid schooling and national curriculum. We have, for many years faced unfair scrutiny from the education authorities and social services. We believe the way we educate our children is the best for our children."

Definitely worth signing as another way of registering the numbers of us who are concerned about not being interfered with any more than we are already.

Have also added it as point 4/ to the What to Do post here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

20,000 Per Day

Here's one of the reasons we want to keep home education alive and kicking:

"20,000 children were skipping school every day to avoid being bullied. "

Of course, those are just the ones who bother to truant. There must be tens of thousands of other bullied school children who just stick it out. What a shame all those parents of bullied truants don't grasp the power available to them and get on and home educate.

Just as galling is the fact that LAs are bothering to think about increasing the amount they pester home educators, (who almost always deal with the very few instances of bullying in HE groups with an impressive efficiency), when this woeful record persists in our so-called institutions of socialisation.

But this article is good for laughs too, since this sort of proposal always conjures up the image of a bundle of elderly parents of a lot of school teachers being forced to cough up or attend courses:
"Parents of bullies are being warned they could be forced to attend parenting classes or face a £1,000 fine."

Other facts and figures about bullying. (NOT funny). 70% of school children will have experienced it. Half of these children will have been physically assaulted. Suicidal children ring Bullying Online at the rate of four a day.

Johnny Shall Have a New Master

If you are still yet to be convinced of the government's intention to intrude upon the minutiae of family life, see this in the Daily Mail.

By the looks of things, we may well need to hold Alan Johnson (as quoted in post below) to his words.

HT: Annette - thanks for making me confront this. (I had been trying to pretend it wasn't happening!)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Parental Involvement in Education - The Ed Sec's Views

Was going to blog this bit about Alan Johnson's views on parental involvement in education, but didn't get round to it and now Gill's made life very easy. From the BBC Website:

Alan Johnson "stressed it was not for the government to dictate to parents"

We might need to quote this to the DfES in the near future, I suspect!

Another Consultation

Consultations, the risk of causing confusion, Blogzilla has news of another one from the DfES, this time on the implementation of the "Information Sharing Index, which will hold a range of data on the UK's young people."

ARCH Blog reports that they

" are going to run a short workshop at UCL on the regulations so that interested organisations can discuss the details in order to help formulate their own consultation responses. I'll announce the speakers shortly once they have confirmed, but if you would like to put the details in your diary now the meeting will be 2-5pm in Drayton B19, Gordon Street, UCL on Wednesday 5 December. "

The index of course has implications for home educators, since not only will we all become known to the authorities as a result of it's implementation, but the "Every Child Matters" agenda, which provides the nominal impetus for it's development, includes a remit to ensure excellence in education for all children. Whilst this sounds like a laudable aim, it is possible (see post below), that the ECM agenda will be used to monitor and dictate to HEors in a way that could set strong constraints upon the degree to which we can actually be considered responsible for the education of our children.

We do have to keep an eye in several different directions at once, it seems.

Light Relief

Which South Park kid are you most like?


You are clever, and often come up with intelligent and funny comebacks to other people's stupid remarks.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

At the risk of annoying Leo immensely (lol...sorry, L, are you converted yet?), and by way of a little light relief for any SP fans, here's Ds's results. He came up as Kenny the second time he tried it which strikes me as about right. He IS a combination of smart talking and yet someone for whom one would be unusually fearful.

I come up as Stan without fail. Dh wouldn't get up off the sofa to do it, (it's so LAME) so he came up as Cartman when we did it for him!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Getting Ready with the Law

With a huge thanks to Mike FW for helping to clarify my thinking in this regard, and also with a very significant caveat that I would doubtless benefit from further expert legal help with this one, I have, whilst dramatically failing to concentrate at work, been running a number of completely non-work related thought experiments. What I was doing, or at least trying to do whilst attempting to appease the boss yet wishing away all those extra duties, was to put a number of different possible dreadful scenarios, as hinted at by the DfES, through a quick legal check in order to find out whether any particular hypothesised change would conflict in any way with current HE law.

So by way of an example, suppose, just suppose the DfES decides that LAs should have an automatic duty to monitor progress of education at home. This clearly would conflict with current law since under Section 437 of the 1996 Education Act, the LA only has to intervene in the situation that it appears that a child of compulsory school age is not receving a suitable education.

This, as I read it and I'm sure it's not just my imagination, does not mean that LAs can, under current law, demand regular monitoring of HEors. LAs have no such duty (though obviously they do try to pull this one all the time.) They can only intervene in the case that a reasonable person on balance of probabilities would think that an education is not happening. From this we can deduce that if the DfES were to insist on regular monitoring as a statutory LA duty, the government would have to alter or enlarge upon section 437.

If they did just that, where would that leave us? Well, possibly not completely stuffed, I hope. The thing is, regular monitoring of home educators will mean regular intrusion by the state into the very stuff of private family life. If there is no reason to suspect that an education is not taking place, then LAs will have no rightful reason to contravene Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides a right to respect for one's "private and family life, and home ."

So that could be alright then. Might take a legal challenge on the basis of EHR but we might be OK. But what if they did something else? What if they suddenly decided that they could get more prescriptive about the meaning of a "broad and balanced" education?

From Section 351 (I think) of the 1996 Education Act we have:

351. - (1) The curriculum for a school satisfies the requirements of this section if it is a balanced and broadly based curriculum which-

(a) promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and

(b) prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.

They could try to claim that our educational provision is inadequate if we don't jump to it and do this, do that and the other, according to their prescription. And yet, (as Mike kindly pointed out) in Section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, we are enjoined to ensure that

7. The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable-

(a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and

(b) to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. "

What, Mike asked, would the authorities say was a suitable education for Serena Williams? Would her mostly tennis based education fit the mold of broad and balanced education, or if she was forbidden from playing so much tennis on the basis that her education didn't look so broad, would she really be in receipt of an education that suited her ability and aptitude? There is a tension here within the same Act which can be used to our protection against the institution of a prescribed curriculum of any sort.

I've started calling this protection of our rights to personalise the education for our children "the Serena Williams Principle, " and it's an important one, since it isn't just Serena who would benefit from a personalised education tailored specifically for her individual needs. All children would benefit from this and this must be enshrined and protected in law in any right-minded society.

And then for the icing on the cake, by way of added protection, we also have Protocol 1, Article 2 of the ECHR:

Protocol 1 - right to property, education and free elections
Article 2 provides for the right not to be denied an education and the right for parents to have their children educated in accordance with their religious and other views.

I reckon we've got a case.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What To Do

Home Educators everywhere:

If you are not already aware, it may be of interest to Home Educators to know that the government are preparing to look at the way that home education is monitored and otherwise controlled. This is being done under the aegis of the Department for Education and Skills, (the DfES), the government dep't that is responsible for developing strategies in education. Part of their remit is to aim to achieve excellence for all and their functions will accord with the Every Child Matters agenda.

Following last year's DfES consultation on draft local authority Home Education guidelines, in which many local authorities expressed frustration at not being able to monitor home education as they would prefer, and which many HEors felt did not adequately or fairly represent the views of a large portion of the HE community, the DfES intend to conduct another consultation on Elective Home Education. The DfES describe the proposed consultation as being "a full one, conducted via the Department's consultation website."..where they hope to ensure that the documents are accessible to as many people as possible.

Put simply, it appears that the DfES is considering using the Every Child Matters Agenda to insist that HEors conform to standards as decided by the state. This could mean that they would like to impose a system of routine monitoring to assess progress. It would
also, in all probability, mean that they would like to intervene in the matter of educational content, either explicitly through the imposition of a curriculum or through the method of punitive monitoring.

The DfES's complaint with the current system is that whilst schools are subject to close inspection, home educators appear to get away with it and that "whilst s437 of the Education Act 1996 provides a remedy for LAs which have concerns that there may be no suitable provision, this is unwieldy, time consuming and expensive and in some cases will be nugatory where home educators are making good provision but are resistant to LA enquiries."

To keep Home Education as we know and love it,

1/ Write to Elaine Haste of the Elective Home Education Department (DfES) at or at and ask to be included on a list of those who receive information about the consultation.

sample letter/email to DFES :

"I am a home educating parent. I understand that there is to be a DFES consultation about light touch changes to the "monitoring" of home educated children. Please keep me informed of any further developments with regard to this consultation.

Yours sincerely"

Elaine Haste
Elective Home Education
Mowden Hall,
DL3 9BG.

( If you would rather remain more anonymous, I understand that you can create a hotmail account, or use a new e-mail address, but I do need to research this more, I'm afraid. )

NB: This does NOT mean that you have taken part in the consultation and the DfES cannot honestly claim that you have. The reason why this last point is important is that HEors who are experienced in the area of government consultations are rightfully cynical about the uses to which these exercises are put. On previous occasions, HEors have found that they may as well have been shouting at the moon, since their views were not adequately or fairly represented in any conclusions or practice, though the DfES nonetheless was able to band it about that they had consulted us.

So why bother signing up now if we don't plan to actually take part in the consultation? Signing up is important because the DfES needs to know just how many of us they are going to have to deal with. They need to realise just how many of us will resist changes in a serious way. If the ptb think that they currently have significant problems with the dealing with HEors under the present legislation, they need to realise just how many more problems they are going to have should they change the situation in the way they appear to intend. This will only happen if the numbers of us who look as if we are going to be resistant to change really stack up.

If thousands of us dig in our heals, refuse automatic monitoring, refuse to use their curricula, and make it quite clear how much trouble we are going to give them, I think they will think twice about going down the route of increased monitoring and interference. The law may be awkward to enforce now, (and so it should be, imo, for otherwise we would live in a police state) but it will be a damn sight more difficult for them to enforce if they try to change it, for not only will they find themselves issuing bundles of expensive SAOs, but they will also find out that many of our children have unusual educational needs for which they will rightfully have to cater.

2/ Spread awareness. Send this post (or improved version) anywhere you think helpful. Tell at least 4 other HEors what is going on and get them to sign up, as above. Get them to tell at least 4 others. Put this on Local HE Lists everywhere. Blog the story if you have an HE or any other kind of blog. Use this explanation there if you don't have the time to re-write it fully.

3/ Spread the positive word about home education (personalised learning, healthy happy children etc ) possibly using the recent media stuff about "toxic childhood". This would be the "battle of hearts n minds" stuff.

4/Sign the petition at:

5/ If you are a member of Education Otherwise you might want to communicate your feelings to the EO Government Policy Group about what you would ideally like EO to be doing about all this. You could also speak to your Local Contact. If you are a member of any other home education support organisation (or you know anyone who is) please pass on general information about the forthcoming DFES consultation.

6/ If you have any energy left, I would also write to your MP, whose seat will doubtless be a much more marginal than it has been for years. Tell her/him , for example, that you don't want your private family life invaded, that should the situation change and HEors be told what to do, you believe that changes will lead to a challenge in the law that holds that parents should be responsible for the education of their children and that you will encourage parents everywhere whose children are failed by the state system to sue the state for it's woeful failure....see this by way of an example.

HEors managed to resist similar state encroachment in the US. They jammed the switchboards, looked as if they could be an expensive problem, and frightened candidates by threatening to use their vote in this consideration alone. We can do it here too.

Do copy anywhere if useful.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Time To Get Going

For any UK Home Educators who are not yet convinced of the need to keep a very close eye on the DfES (see this blog post), check out the recommendations on page 23 of this piece of DfES funded research. Whilst nominally a piece about traveller children, all electively home educated children would fall subject to the recommendations.


*In terms of securing uniform guarantees of children's rights and entitlements to equality of education irrespective of provider, and the safeguarding of the care and protection of children from possible harm and abuse, parliamentary legislation is required.

*Legislation should apply uniformly to all families with children currently being educated at home and those wishing to elect for home education in the future.

*It is suggest (sic) that the legislation should ensure that:
a) a standardized national system of registration be implemented by each local education authority in terms of assessment criteria; monitoring/inspection visits; and the time sequence related to these events
b) the wishes of children are established and taken into account in the assessment process.

d) (sic...there was no C)... a clear curriculum entitlement is defined which is broad and balanced.
e) all children to be registered (irrespective of whether they have ever been registered with a school), and that all children registered under EHE are seen initially and in the teaching and learning situation on a regular basis defined in law and a standard format for post visit reports and their distribution.
f) all children registered under EHE are assessed on a regular basis in relation to expectations of educational progress.

g) that a timetable be established and defined in relation to the procedures incumbent on local authorities pursuant to assessment judgments of the provision being unsuitable.
h) parents and secondary aged children have the right of appeal at any decision by the appropriate authorities in regard to an application and continuance of elected home education.

*The legislation should be supported by appropriate circulars and other guidance together with an initial and periodic national training programme.

*That Local authorities be required to include within their Inspection Cycle, an assessment of the quality of the assessment and monitoring/inspection functions in relation to elective home education and to report on their findings.

*That the criteria for assessment and monitoring/inspection visits should be based on a modified version of the requirements for the inspection of independent schools under Section 162a.25

*The Department for Education and Skills should implement changes in order that the cycle of prejudice is broken down, racist bullying tackled and the educational needs and aspirations of Gypsy/Roma and Traveller communities are taken into account within maintained schools.

*That a review be commissioned by the DfES after five years of the implementation of the new legislation.

So yep, let's get going. If you don't fancy being traced too specifically, just register with the DfES Consultation Website and list any number of different consultations as well as any likely to include those about Home Education. But if you do really want to make a point that you are watching the DfES, write to Elaine Haste or Mr Thompson at and ask them to send you all information about consultations to do with any changes to Home Education legislation. You should receive something like this in response to the latter:

"Thank you for your email regarding home education; I will include your name on a list that is being set up to receive any further relevant information as it becomes available."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Whose Fault is It Anyway?

This is preposterous. I admit I haven't read it very calmly, but I'll tell you why parents have lost confidence in parenting (if indeed they have).

Firstly, we shut children away in artificial peer groups for most of their young lives so that they rarely have prolonged contact with children of other ages, and even more rarely get closely involved in caring for younger children. Most school pupils grow up ignorant of the genuine needs of children since this subject cannot be taught effectively in a classroom. And most of them have no idea how to parent in the modern world in which automatic deference is thankfully no longer an option. They struggle to return to the good old days since they imagine that the only other route is violent anarchy and simply don't get it that you can find a way of appealing to the reason in children.

Secondly, but just as importantly, parents feel the ever present spirit of the state peering over our shoulders every second of the day, attempting to ensure that we do this, do that, get 5 portions, achieve, stay safe, ensure other children are emotionally healthy blah, blah, blah. It is enough to unnerve any parent when coupled with the thought that there could be a completely unaccountable family court waiting at the end of all this.

It really does almost make sense to think "better just to give up thinking for oneself, making inevitable mistakes and then risking being held accountable in terrible ways and with terrible consequences. Yup, better just hand over all responsibility to the state and let them get on with it".

How dare Ms Hughes blame families for the problem. It is the state which is hobbling families and it needs to back off.

(HT: not quite sure, but thanks! Am off to find some diazepam.)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Latest on Monitoring of Home Education

It really is happening. The nightmare is only just ahead of us, for not only are Home Educators now very unlikely to escape the initial attentions of the state, (as a result of the Children's Database) but it may well be that we shall have to dance precisely to their tune. From the following, it really looks as we may have to say "bye bye" to any hopes of personalised learning unless we jump to it and make it very plain just how much resistance the DfES initiative will meet.

From Adrian Thompson of the Public Communications Unit of the Department for Education and Skills:

"There is no specific duty in statute on local authorities (LAs) to monitor parents' education provision. However, it is our view that case law (Philips vs Brown 1980) places such a duty on LAs. Only s7 of the Education Act 1996, not s351, applies to home educated children, and legislation does not define 'suitability' of education. However, a suitable education has been defined in case law as one which "primarily equips a child for life within the community of which he is a member, rather than the way of life in the country as a whole, as long as it does not foreclose the child's options in later years to adopt some other form of life if he wishes to do so."

The state cannot currently prescribe what form of education parents should provide, whilst all maintained and independent school provision is prescribed in legislation and subject to inspection. This anomaly is at odds with Every Child Matters reforms, supported by the Children Act 2004, which set out the Government's aim to improve educational outcomes for all children, regardless of where they are educated, and to narrow the gap between those who are doing well and those who are not. Whilst s437 of the Education Act 1996 provides a remedy for LAs which have concerns that there may be no suitable provision, this is unwieldy, time consuming and expensive and in some cases will be nugatory where home educators are making good provision but are resistant to LA enquiries.

We note your comments and re-iterate that the intention of a full consultation is to open up a constructive debate on whether or not changes are required, and if so what they might be. Can I suggest that you gather together your thoughts on home education monitoring, and any other aspects of home education, and submit these in due course as part of our future consultation. We will add you to our consultation email list so that you will be aware of the consultation when it starts.

Yours sincerely Adrian Thompson. Public Communications Unit.

If you have any further queries why not browse our Popular Questions Website."

Home Educators everywhere who value being able to offer personalised learning to their children and who hold out any hope of a private family life must get writing to the DfES at

This is my missive:

Dear Mr Thompson,

I understand that there are plans afoot to consider changes to the way that Home Educators are monitored by their Local Authorities.

I would be very interested in hearing more about this initiative and any forthcoming consultations on this subject.

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Thanks to Jax for pointing out that you can sign up to be kept informed about DfES consultations at

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What's the Answer?

From Spiked Online: an intriguing op-ed on the school meals debacle, in which the author, amongst many other things, implies that our fear of certain food stuffs may be exaggerated. He may have a point if this kind of article (on trans fats) is anything to go by.

My quibble with Spiked: I do think there is a genuine problem. Yesterday, for example, we walked past a line of primary school children sitting along a wall, plumped there as if for our inspection. At least every third child was significantly overweight in a way which would mean that they couldn't run at any speed, or indeed rise from a chair with ease. This cannot be right, surely!

The problem with the school meal solution is that it could only really work in an age of automatic deference to authority, but do we really want to return to the days when we spent years gagging over liver and bacon, particularly when this way of doing things does so little to encourage reasoning skills or enhance personal responsibility? Ideally, what seems to be needed is the provision of close and persuasive argument in order to win hearts and minds but schools are unlikely to be able to offer this as a result of the usual difficulty with sheer weight of numbers and you can sympathise with parents who feel that they have to shed all those responsibilities as soon as a child steps through the school gates.

So still can't think of a good school solution and just keep thinking "Phew" thank heavens Ds and Dd are clear that want to stay with home education!

Whose Good Communication Skills?

Think tanks seem to provide an excuse for all sorts of magical thinking, post hoc reasoning and the apparent legitimisation of non sequitors.

"Children must learn life skills. Children's personal skills are increasingly likely to influence their future earning potential, not just exam results, a think-tank suggests. Failure to teach key skills such as communication is widening the gap between rich and poor, says the Institute for Public Policy Research. It recommends a longer school day so pupils can learn these "soft" skills at after-class arts and sports clubs. Parents who fail to send their children to clubs should face fines, it says. "

Honestly, where does one start?

Let's stick to the biggest glaring error. In what way does imposing fines upon people demonstrate the practice of good communication? What lesson should people take from this other than that those in work do not need to communicate persuasively since all they need do is threaten others?

All in all, (by way of a quick summary), if schools can offer classes that children freely want to attend, that don't descend into vicious anarchy, that do have proper adult input, that do offer a way of integrating children into the world outside the school gates, I don't have any argument. Otherwise I most certainly do.

HT: Elizabeth

Elective Home Education Legal Guidelines




Education Law 1
Parental Responsibilities 2
Deregistration 3
Local Authority Duties 3
Diverse Approaches 5
Special Educational Needs 6
School Attendance Orders 9
Irregular School Attendance 10
Further Notes 11

Act numbers refer to The Education Act 1996 unless otherwise stated.

Education is compulsory - school attendance is not. The freedom to educate children at home forms an intrinsic and essential element of educational provision in our society, a right which has been protected by a succession of Education Acts. The law is clear that while education is compulsory, school attendance is not.

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Page 1.

Education Law

The current legislation regulating education in England and Wales is the Education Act 1996 (a consolidating act which incorporates and repeals the 1944 Education Act and later legislation. Repealed law should no longer be referred to).

The only sections relevant to elective home education are: (emphasis added)

Parental Duties:

Section 7 "The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable;

a) to his age, ability, and aptitude, and b) to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."

Local Authority Duties:

The LA's duties and powers in relation to home-educated children are contained in the Education Act 1996. These are fully set out in sections 437 to 443 of the 1996 Act and (except in relation to special educational needs) are limited to the provisions of those sections.

437. - (1) If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent requiring him to satisfy them within the period specified in the notice that the child is receiving such education.

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Page 2.

Parental Responsibilities

Under section 576 of the Education Act 1996, a parent is defined in relation to a child or young person as also including any individual:

(a) who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for him, or(b) who has care of him.

As parents are responsible for ensuring that their children are properly educated, it is their decision whether to use schools or provide education at home.

It is important to note that the duty to secure education is stated entirely in section 7 and nowhere else.

Provided the child is not a registered pupil at a school, the parent is bound by no other constraints. In particular, there is no obligation

to seek permission to educate 'otherwise';

to take the initiative in informing the LEA;

to have regular contact with the LEA;

to meet with the LA;

to have premises equipped to any particular standard;

to have any specific qualifications;

to cover the same syllabus as any school;

to adopt the National Curriculum;

to make detailed plans in advance;

to observe school hours, days or terms;

to have a fixed timetable;

to give formal lessons;

to produce examples of ‘work’ for inspection;

to reproduce school type peer group socialisation;

to match school, age-specific standards.

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Page 3.


The grounds on which a pupil's name must be deleted from the admission register are listed in Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 9, 1995 [SI 1995/2089]. Under regulation 9(1)(c), a 'school-age' pupil's name is to be deleted from the admission register if:

he has ceased to attend the school and the proprietor has received written notification from the parent that the pupil is receiving education otherwise than at school.

If the parent writes to the proprietor explaining that the child is being educated at home, the school is obliged to take the child's name off the register, and the duty to secure regular attendance thus comes to an end. Since 1995 this has been an absolute legal requirement: no discretion is involved. (Under regulation 13(3) the proprietor of the school must also report the deletion of the pupil's name from the admission register to the LA ‘within ten school days’.) In this way the legal position of a parent embarking on home-based education is the same regardless of whether or not the child has been withdrawn from a school for this purpose. i.e., the LA is entitled to make informal enquiries of the parent(s).

LA consent is required for the name of a child registered as a pupil at a ‘special school’ – ‘under arrangements made by the LEA’, to be deleted from the schools’ admission register. (Regulation 9(2) Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations, 1995 [SI 1995/2089]).

The Regulations do not specify who should seek that consent. Reasonably, such a request can be made by either the child’s parent, the proprietor of the school, or both, in cases where it is the parental choice to home educate. If the school has stated that it will, itself, seek LA consent for the child’s name to be deleted from the admission register, for example where the parent has informed it that they have chosen to home educate, it is advisable that the parent also seeks such consent themselves.

LAs should not discriminate against parental choice to home educate their child by refusing such consent on the grounds that the child has SEN for whom it maintains a statement. If the authority does refuse to agree to such consent, the direction of the Secretary of State can be sought.

Local Authority Duties (cont'd)

The wording of the Education Act 1996 requires the LA to act only if something comes to its attention which gives it reason to suppose a breach of a parent's section 7 duty. It does not need to investigate any instances of home education which come to its attention unaccompanied by any grounds for suspicion that an adequate education is not taking place.However, case law (Phillips v Brown, Divisional Court [20 June 1980, unreported] Judicial review by Lord Justice Donaldson, as he then was) has established that an LA may make informal enquiries of parents. Lord Donaldson said:

"Of course such a request is not the same as a notice under s 37 (1) of the Education Act 1944 (now s 437 (1) of the 1996 Education Act) and the parents will be under no duty to comply. However it would be sensible for them to do so. If parents give no information or adopt the course ………. of merely stating that they are discharging their duty without giving any details of how they are doing so, the LA will have to consider and decide whether it ‘appears’ to it that the parents are in breach of s 36. (now s7 of the 1996 Education Act.)"

Determining ‘Suitable Education’

LAs should bear in mind when considering the replies to such informal enquiries (and other more formal ones, should the matter go that far) that parents taken to court for failing to comply with a School Attendance Order only have to show the court that they are providing a suitable education on a balance of probabilities. That is the test that LAs must also apply. Also a court will receive any evidence a parent produces, it will not have to be in any specified form and it will be sufficient so long as it shows that a suitable education is being given. Similarly an LA has no power to require that information be given to it in a specified form or way.

The DfES acknowledge this on their web site:

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Page 4.

(LA Duties, con'd)

LAs have no automatic right of access to parents' home. Parents may wish to offer an alternative way of demonstrating that they are providing suitable education, for example through showing examples of work and agreeing to a meeting at another venue.

Another “example” might be information provided in written form, sufficiently comprehensive to establish competence and intention, and beyond the bare assertion that education is taking place which Lord Donaldson determined was inadequate.

Many parents are quite concerned not to have their child’s privacy invaded out of respect for the child’s autonomy, and any hint of testing or examination by strangers with a different agenda can be experienced as undermining. Therefore for reasons of educational approach, some parents may not wish to provide information to their LA through home visits. Insistence or assumption of a home visit by the LA is a breach of Article 8 of the ECHR (the right to privacy and respect for family life.)

It would be helpful if LAs carry out their duty to accept information provided in any reasonable and adequate form, by not making a prior assumption of the normalcy of any particular form this might take, but on first approach to present the parents with the free choice the law supports. In the case of R v Surrey Quarter Sessions Appeals Committee, ex parte Tweedie (1963), Lord Parker held that: ' education authority should not, as a matter of policy, insist on inspection in the home as the only method of satisfying themselves that the children were receiving full time education.'

There is no legal requirement for the LA to make continual enquiries. Once in receipt of a reasonable account of the educational provision, their legal obligation is fulfilled and no further contact is necessary. However, some parents may appreciate continuous help, support and contact and under these circumstances further contact can be arranged. Some LAs arrange 'drop-in' centres where families can maintain contact.

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Page 5.

Diverse Approaches to Home Education

The principle of parental choice is paramount. Families are entitled to choose what they feel to be the most suitable educational approach.

The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Article 2 of protocol No 1 states:

"No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions."

One system cannot be expected to cater for the needs and interests of all individuals, (many fail to thrive or reach their full potential whilst receiving formal instruction in a school environment). A variety of alternatives in education is therefore important and the law protects this diversity.

A clearer interpretation of some terminology used in the 1944 Education Act (repealed by the 1996 Act), was gained in the case of Harrison & Harrison v Stephenson (appeal to Worcester Crown Court 1981). The term 'suitable education' was defined as one which enabled the children ‘to achieve their full potential’, and was such as ‘to prepare the children for life in modern civilised society’. The term 'efficient' was defined as achieving ‘that which it sets out to achieve’.

Clearly this definition covers a great variety of educational approaches.

There is no one 'correct' educational system. All children learn in different ways and at varying rates, and chronological age has little bearing on the process. It would be wholly inappropriate for example to seek to impose ‘reading and numeracy age’ scales on home educated children, not subject to the specific educational methods in state schools. Individual children come to literacy and numeracy over a huge age range, which has no subsequent bearing on their competence in these areas as adults. It is vital that parents and children choose a type of education which is right for them, and it is important that any LA officers understand and are supportive of many differing approaches or "ways of educating" which are all feasible and legally valid.

Education Act 1996, Part V (incorporating Education Reform Act 1988).

This deals with the National Curriculum, stating in ss 351 to 353 (replacing ss1&2) that it only applies to children who are registered pupils of maintained (i.e. State or State-supported) schools. Home educators may choose whether to base their studies around these guidelines fully, partially, or not at all.

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Page 6

Elective Home Education of Children with Special Educational Needs

The right of parents to choose to home educate their children with special educational needs is upheld by section 7 of the Education Act 1996 and applies regardless of whether a statement is maintained by the LA for the child or not.

'The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable: -

(a) to his age, ability, and aptitude and (b) to any special educational needs he may have

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise

Identification and Assessment of Children with Special Educational Needs

It is important that LAs recognise that a child with a disability will not automatically have special educational needs (SEN). The definition of a person with a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 is not the same as the definition of those children who have special educational needs under the Education Act 1996.

Children with SEN are defined as those having “a learning difficulty.. (the definition of which includes a disability) ..which calls for special educational provision to be made for him.” Special educational provision is itself defined as provision which is additional or different to that made available for children of the same age in ordinary schools in their area. (section 312).

Accordingly, it is possible for a child to be disabled under the DDA and not have SEN (and vice versa). Equally, it is possible for a child to be both disabled and have SEN (and, of course, be neither).

Under sections 321 (2) and 323 (2), LAs have a duty to identify and formally assess only those children for whom they are responsible, where

(a) he has special educational needs, and(b) it is necessary for the authority to determine the special educational provision which any learning difficulty he may have calls for.

It is therefore not necessary for LAs to identify and formally assess electively home educated children of compulsory school age that have, or probably have, SEN, where the child’s parents and the LA are satisfied that those needs can be suitably met by the parents ‘otherwise than at school’. Conversely, it is necessary for LAs to identify and formally assess children of compulsory school age that are electively home educated in the following instances:

· the child has, or probably has, SEN, the child is to become a registered pupil at a school and it is considered unlikely that the child’s needs can be met within the schools own resources (e.g. at School Action Plus).

· the child has, or probably has, SEN, the parents’ no longer wish to fulfil their section 7 responsibilities by electively home educating and the LA is of the opinion that it is necessary for it to determine the special educational provision which any learning difficulty calls for.

LAs shall make and maintain a statement only for those children for whom it is necessary that the LA, as opposed to the parent, determines the special educational provision necessary.

Section 324:“(1) If, in the light of an assessment under section 323 of any child’s educational needs and of any representations made by the child’s parent in pursuance of Schedule 27, it is necessary for the local education authority to determine the special educational provision which any learning difficulty calls for, the authority shall make and maintain a statement of his special educational needs.”

The statutory procedures for formal assessment and making and maintaining a statement are contained in Part IV and Schedules 26 and 27 of the Education Act 1996 (as amended by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001) and The Education (Special Educational Needs) (England) (Consolidation) Regulations 2001

Children that become electively home educated for whom statements are maintained

Parents need to seek permission to home educate a child for whom a statement is maintained only where a School Attendance Order is in force. Otherwise, the fundamental parental right to choose to home educate a child with special educational needs is in no way undermined.

Section 324 (5) of the Education Act 1996 places a statutory duty upon LAs to arrange the provision specified in a statement it maintains only if parents are not themselves making suitable arrangements.

Section 324:“(5) Where a local education authority maintain a statement under this section, then

unless the child’s parent has made suitable arrangements, the authority – shall arrange that the special educational provision specified in the statement is made for the child……”

Where parents that are electively home educating their child for whom the LA maintains a statement of SEN are fulfilling their responsibility under section 7 of the Act, they are indeed making ‘suitable arrangements’.

Nowhere in the legislation is there a duty placed upon parents to arrange the provision specified in the statement maintained by the LA for their child. LAs cannot conclude that a parent is failing to cause their child to receive suitable education on grounds that the parent is not arranging the special educational provision specified in the statement. Parental responsibilities are defined entirely in section 7 and nowhere else. LAs must accept that electively home educating parents may choose alternative special educational provision or an alternative approach to meeting their child’s SEN than that which is specified in the statement.

Parental rights and duties are not affected where a Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST) Order has been made regarding the content of the statement. Accordingly, a parent is not required to register their child as a pupil at the school named at Part 4 of the statement, nor to arrange the special educational provision specified at Part 3, where the contents of these Parts of the statement are decided by the Tribunal upon conclusion of an appeal.

LA’s are absolved of their duty to arrange the special educational provision specified in the statement it maintains where the child is electively home educated. This does not prevent a LA from offering to arrange some, or all, of the special educational provision specified at Part 3 of the statement, although parents are free to decline such an offer. If the LA and the child’s parent are agreeable to the suitability of LA arranged provision for meeting the child’s special educational needs otherwise than at a school, section 319 provides that such provision be specified in the statement and duly arranged.

An LA cannot insist that a child for whom it maintains a statement or a child with SEN for whom no statement is maintained be assessed by an educational psychologist, specialist teacher or similar in order to establish that the parents are fulfilling their section 7 responsibilities. LAs can only expect a child to be presented for an assessment ‘examination’ when a statutory assessment under section 323 is underway.

LAs retain the duty to review a statement maintained for a child that is electively home educated at least every 12 months, as required by section 328 (5) of the Education Act 1996. Regulation 22 of The Education (Special Educational Needs) (England) (Consolidation) Regulations 2001 prescribes the statutory procedures of such reviews and the matters which must be considered.

Once a LA is satisfied that a child’s special educational needs are being suitably met through elective home education and that parents are established in and committed to providing long term home educational provision, consideration to ceasing to maintain the statement should be made. An appropriate opportunity for such consideration would be when the statement is reviewed, although such consideration can be made at any other time. LAs concerned that this may not be an appropriate course should recognise that statements should only ever be maintained “…where it is necessary for the local education authority to determine the special educational provision which any learning difficulty he may have calls for…” (from section 324 (1)).

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School Attendance Orders

Education Act 1996 s 437-443, (previously s 192-198 1993 Act)This begins:

"If it appears to a local education authority that a child of compulsory school age in their area is not receiving suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise, they shall serve a notice in writing on the parent...."

The formal steps provided for in these sections should not be needed unless something has gone seriously wrong. Nevertheless they are summarised here for reference:

1. If the LEA has evidence that there appears to be no suitable educational provision, the LEA must serve the parents with a notice giving them at least 15 days to satisfy them that their child is in receipt of suitable education. The DfES at < > has issued LEA guidance on this procedure which states that when

“informing them of the LEAs intention to serve a SAO. The LEA should inform the parent of schools that are suitable for the child to attend and should also inform the parent that they have the right to educate their child at home if they choose to.”

2. If the parents fail to satisfy the LEA, it then has to consider whether it is expedient for the child to go to school. If they think it is they must serve a 'school attendance order', but before doing so they must serve a notice stating which school they intend to name in the order, and giving the parents a chance to choose an alternative. If a statement is maintained for the child, the LEA must name the school specified in Part 4 and is not required to serve a notice which allows parents to choose an alternative school. However, if no school is named in Part 4 or if the school named is determined by the LEA to be unsuitable, an amendment must be made in accordance with paragraph 10 of Schedule 27 of the Education Act 1996. Accordingly, parents will have the right to make representations against the contents of the statement, express a preference for the name of a maintained school or make representations for another placement and to appeal to the SENDIST, if necessary. Similarly, if the parents request a change of named school, the LEA must comply with that request in accordance with paragraph 8 of Schedule 27 and parents will be able to exercise their right of appeal to the SENDIST if the LEA determines not to comply. The LEA should not issue the school attendance order until the time limit for lodging an appeal has lapsed.

3. The LEA serve a school attendance order requiring the parents to register the child as a pupil at the school named in it.

4. The parents can ask the LEA to revoke the order because they are educating 'otherwise'.

5. The LEA can prosecute the parents for not complying with the order, but the action will fail if the parents can show the court that they are educating 'otherwise'.

The evidence a court requires to satisfy it that adequate education is taking place, is such as would convince ‘a reasonable person’, ‘on the balance of probabilities’. (Under section 447, whether they prosecute or not, the LEA must also consider applying for an education supervision order.)

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Page 10

Irregular or Non-attendance at School

Education Act 1996 s 444, (previously s 199 of 1993 Act derived from s 39 1944 Act)

This deals with the non-attendance, or irregular attendance at school, of registered pupils. If poor/non attendance is due to severe school anxieties, usually the Educational Welfare department becomes involved and the family should be informed of all their duties, rights and available options including education at home.

Many LAs, when confronted with the problems of School Phobia/Anxieties, School Refusal/Truanting, encourage families to contact one of the home education support groups for help and advice. This provides a useful alternative course of action for officials, because if endeavours are made to pressure children with the above problems back into schools under duress, the whole family (as well as the child) suffers the ensuing stress and the truanting and nervous illnesses inevitably continue. Education at home may prevent further distress and the possibility of the child returning to school at a later date remains an option.

Flexi-time or Part-time schooling

There may be families who would prefer a flexi-time schooling approach.

Under s444(3)(a) of the 1996 Education Act

Any ‘school age’ child who goes to school at all must attend regularly, but absence ‘with leave’ does not count as irregular attendance. During such absences the child is officially at school, but is effectively being educated off site. (S)he is therefore covered for insurance and attracts full funding. Such arrangements are at the discretion of the school. (s 444 (9))Further Notes

Truancy Patrols

It has unfortunately become necessary in this revision to draw attention to the Home Office guidance: ‘GUIDANCE DOCUMENT POWER FOR THE POLICE TO REMOVE TRUANTS’, as the widespread experience of home educators around the country has revealed that many police officers and accompanying EWOs have not been properly briefed on the safeguards it contains, specifically to protect the civil liberties of home educated children.

Section 4.21 of this guidance states:

"Local procedures should take account of possible contact with such home-educated children and it should be emphasised that they are not the target group for the new power. The power can only be exercised in relation to registered pupils of compulsory school age absent from school without authority; it does not apply to children who are lawfully educated at home. No further action should be taken where children indicate that they are home-educated - unless the constable has reason to doubt that this is the case."

Some police officers and EWOs have used the opportunity these actions provide to insist on names and addresses being given, and refusal as a reason for doubt. There is no compulsory registration of home educators, therefore to so insist against the clear direction contained in the Home Office guidance is an abuse, and an avoidable source of friction and resentment where it occurs. Home educators and their children have been advised that legally, once they have stated that they are home educators, that as they commit no offence, they are entitled to go on their way without further question, and that any further detention is unlawful.

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Page 11

Further Notes

Resources for home educators

It would be appreciated, at first LEA contact, and in any written LEA guidance that the following web site be listed: This web site is independent of any one organisation or educational philosophy, and is the home of the UK Home Education web ring, linking with many other sites created as self help resources by and for home educators. All the home education organisations can be found through this one site. The information, help and mutual support available is an unrivalled resource of immense value to many.

This document is the work of a large number of home educators including, but not exclusively, members of ‘Education Otherwise’ and ‘Choice in Education’. It was edited, and has been further revised in March 2003 by Neil Taylor. It is online at or

My special thanks for this revision to SpEArHead (Special Education At Home) for providing the SEN section of this document.

Free copying and distribution of this document, unaltered and in its entirety is encouraged. Authenticity of the original can be verified by the editor contacted through the above web site.

Paper copies in A4 sheet (for easy photocopying), or A5 booklet form are available from 'Choice in Education', an independent publication for Home Educators, PO Box 20284, London, NW1 3WY £1.00 to cover printing, post and packing costs.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

We Can Manage, Thanks.

The cheek! From an article about Home Education in Norfolk:

"Norfolk County Council runs a home educator service, which offers support and advice to parents opting for home schooling. It can link children together to ensure they interact socially, ...we're here if people have a query or want support. We advise on curriculum websites, books about home education and provide links to organisations like Connexions when young people are starting to think about their next steps after school.”

We and practically every other home educating family we know have managed very well thank you very much without any help from LAs. We socialise frenetically already. Any more socialisation and we'd bust! And if HEors really can't find the information they need in this information rich age, I really don't think they should HEing in the first place. We manage all this through our own HE networks, social and IT. This is NOT difficult though it seems as if Norfolk LA would have us believe that it is and implicitly that we must therefore be dependent upon them.

What we do need, however, are things they won't help us with, eg: easy access to exam centres.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Rot Sets in for Independent Home Education

It's all light and love in Bedfordshire according to this Bedford County Council Home Education Service - Satisfaction Survey. And of course, it couldn't possibly be just a teeny weeny bit biased could it? Nah, surely not. All those Home Educators who prefer not to be interfered with by the ptb are absolutely bound to send in their satisfaction surveys by return of post!

Oh dear. Divide and rule in Bedfordshire is truly underway, separating out those home learners who are actually not home educators at all, given that they are registered at school and all those other genuine HEors who get on with it by themselves, as is their legal right, and who get sent threats of School Attendance Orders apparently almost as a matter of course.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

In My Opinion

I know I give the Beeb a hard time here, but actually we love their education sites. I do, however, have a problem with the theories of knowledge that underpin some of the questions that appear, for example, here. Buried somewhere in there is a question which asks you to pick out "the opinion" from a choice of three options: (a) the fizzy drink is yummy. (b) Contents: 250 mls. (c) Ingredients: water, sugar. Of course you can see what they're getting at but in my opinion, all the options are technically opinions, since all statements, even those which appear to describe reality fairly precisely, are actually only just that - opinions. This because we can never be completely sure of our knowledge.

Rod Liddle wrote in the Spectator recently that we will always have grounds to grumble about the content of a school education, but that we should just get over it and generally get on with it. Trouble is, I'm not so sure. Isn't this just a way of perpetuating error needlessly? How I see it is that there are some things one could swallow, (and hopefully correct at home) and other things that are just too devastating to one's world view to let pass. If, for example, TB were really to allow school children be taught creationism in an uncritical fashion, I think I really would have a major problem. This isn't setting the bar too high imo.

But in this instance I do wonder if I am getting just a little too picky in thinking that it is a problem to encourage my children to think that a fact is a fact and that's that. Perhaps I should just get over this grating sensation and bury my critical rationalist urges until I can get my hands on the kids and explain to them that the Beeb's epistemology doesn't seem so good. Or could it really be the BIG problem that it appears to me to be?

Hmm...well it is the case that theories about the nature of knowledge underpin and inform all other areas of knowledge and it's acquisition. Getting these theories seemingly right will allow for the growth of knowledge and a mature ethical outlook. Getting it wrong scrambles this process, either by rendering the thinker a fundamentalist, a relativist or a post-modernist, with all the attendant ethical problems that these positions entail. This problem therefore is BIG.

Then again, I do know of one quite remarkable family in which the parents would make precisely the same criticisms of the epistemology that is commonly taught in schools and yet because their children love school, they cope with the errors and correct them as and when. One of the first ethical errors that this family avoids is to compel their children to go to school against their will. These children love school and clearly thrive in it, and since the parents teach fallibilism as a basic principal, it appears not to damage the children's thinking one jot. My guess is though, that these children are the rare exception and that most will leave school with a pretty muddied view of how reality probably stacks up.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sensibly Fussy, the Home Ed Way

With yet more news of the disaster that is the attempt to bring healthy foods to state schools, it's difficult to resist the temptation to link this subject to another ongoing thread in this blog, ie: (as mentioned in the last post,) the problems that stem from the lack of adult input.

The thing is, it takes an awful lot of effort, adaptability, creativity and imagination to provide a healthy diet to kids. Of course Jamie Oliver probably thinks he is very capable in all of these departments, but one thing he perhaps hasn't considered is the hypothesized explanation concerning the increased sensitivity to new food stuffs which children develop as they become more mobile and independent. It is argued that this phenomenon has an evolutionary basis, since all those children who wandered far and wide with indiscriminating taste buds are no longer genetically with us. It sounds like a convincing argument, but it makes for a problem for the take-up of nutritious school meals since it suggests that a continuity of provision of very specific healthy foodstuffs is required - the superfoods with which the child has become familiar before being sent off to school are statistically unlikely to turn up on his plate in a Jamie Oliver-inspired meal.

I find that the healthy foods my children enjoy are highly idiosyncratic and often unpredictable: a high consumption of pomegranates and boiled eggs for example, or ten kiwi fruits in rapid succession, then not much interest for a about six months. Juice containing two carrots, or a juice with 3/4 of a carrot, apparently fiddly, but actually easily managed when only cooking for two children. And we can plan together and shop together, which means we don't waste much - things which again are not easily possible with school meals.

Clearly the solution (yet again) is more adult input the Home Education way, for not only does it solve the problem above, but I also find that it isn't just a question of talking about healthy eating just the once. It is a lesson that occurs and is reiterated daily. Abandoning children to the melee of the canteen will mean that they aren't getting this important information, the incentive or the inspiration to eat healthily.

Personalised learning, personalised eating! We don't expect adults to learn a vast range of subjects that they will never use again in their entire lives and we don't expect them to consume food they can't stand. Yet this is precisely what we ask of our children. Why do we imagine that enforced curricula and enforced consumption of certain foods are a good preparation for adult life? In tailoring to specific needs, we don't abandon children to ignorance or gluttony. It is simply that grown-ups are actually on hand to provide good information and facilitate informed choices according to the specific needs of the individual child.


Adult Involvement is the Key

According to the BBC news this morning,

"Britain's youth are among the most badly behaved in Europe, a study by a think-tank has suggested. On every indicator of bad behaviour - drugs, drink, violence, promiscuity - the UK was at or near the top, said the Institute for Public Policy Research. "

And the reasons that are suggested as being contributory?

"Nick Pearce, from IPPR, (a left leaning think tank) said these figures pointed to an "increasing disconnect" between children and adults. He said youngsters were learning how to behave from one another instead of from adults. "Because they don't have that structured interaction with adults, it damages their life chances," he said. The researchers concluded that the lack of adult interaction has left British teenagers increasingly vulnerable to failure. "

Well there we go Home Educators everywhere: this is not our problem and in fact we appear to solve it rather well since one of the things that distinguishes HE from schooling is that children do spend much more time in the company of adults, with all the attendant advantages that this can confer.

And of course, HE kids not only spend more time in the company of adults, they often spend a great amount of time with much younger children, which we suspect is also hugely important in terms of developing a sense of empathy and responsibility for others, as well as learning about parenting skills. I watch my daughter caring her dolls with immense skill for someone of her age, and I suspect it comes from a combination of playing with children younger than herself and watching all those other mums at HE groups parenting their babies so well.

You can only conclude that despite the prevailing meme, school appears NOT to be the perfect place to learn to socialise since pupils spend almost all the time mixing with people exactly their own age. And what with adults working ever longer days, and the recent proposals to extend school hours without more adult involvement, it would seem we have a recipe for disaster.

HEors can afford to make these points as widely as possible, I believe!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Don't Talk to Your Doctor; It's Bad for You

Here's the Guardian on the NHS Database:

"The information commissioner, Richard Thomas, warned this year that private investigators were already raiding government and company databases, because the penalties are so weak. Investigations by his staff and police had uncovered "evidence of a pervasive and widespread 'industry' devoted to the illegal buying and selling of such information".

"Mr Thomas said he had identified 305 journalists buying unlawful personal information about celebrities, lottery winners and others. A private detective hired by a potentially abusive husband to track down his wife had posed as a health official. He had "obtained details of the woman's whereabouts by phoning her parents' medical centre and requesting their number to check a prescription". Government databases raided on behalf of insurance firms and private industry, often with the help of staff, have included the Police National Computer, the DVLA's vehicle computer, and those at the Department for Work and Pensions

UPDATE: Here's who to complain to. If enough of us do it, it could put a spanner in the works.